Rangers to honor four top prospects

Rangers to honor four top prospects

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers will honor Minor League pitchers Michael Kirkman and Cody Eppley, outfielder Engel Beltre and catcher Jose Felix at their Mid-Winter Banquet.

Beltre has been named the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year and Kirkman has been selected as the Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Eppley is being honored as Minor League Reliever of the Year and Felix is the Defender of the Year.

The banquet is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 21, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine. Tickets, which are $75 per person or $750 for a table of 10, can be purchased at www.texasrangers.com or by calling 972-RANGERS.

Beltre, 21, spent this past season at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, hitting .300 with 15 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, 49 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases in 115 games. He played 47 games and had 181 at-bats at Double-A and hit .254 as the youngest position player in the Texas League. Beltre, who was added to the 40-man roster earlier this month, was acquired from the Red Sox along with outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Kason Gabbard on July 31, 2007, in exchange for reliever Eric Gagne.

Kirkman has already been selected as the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year after going 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 22 starts and two relief appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was third in the league with 130 strikeouts in 131 innings. He was called up to the Rangers on Aug. 20 and had a 1.65 ERA in 14 relief appearances. He appeared in three games in the playoffs. Kirkman was taken in the fifth round in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Lake City Columbia (Fla.) High.

Eppley, a 43rd-round pick in the 2008 Draft out of Virginia Commonwealth, is a rising star in the Rangers' system. He made 51 relief appearances at Bakersfield, Frisco and Oklahoma City, going 5-2 with a 2.08 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 69 innings. A sidearm right-hander, he finished with 16 saves while holding right-handed hitters to a .147 average. Overall, opponents hit .207 off him.

Felix, 22, spent the season between Bakersfield and Frisco, and ended up throwing out 47 of 79 attempted basestealers. Most of his time was spent at Bakersfield where he threw out 44 of 70 attempted stealers, a 62.9 rate that was the highest in any full-season league for the year. At the plate, he appeared in 100 games overall and batted .278 with three home runs and 37 RBIs in 353 at-bats. Felix, who hit .347 in the Arizona Fall League while throwing out seven of 10 basestealers, was an amateur free agent signed out of Mexico by scout Mel Didier on Jan. 20, 2008.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.